Why Illuminate STEM?
Illuminate STEM was created by me - an Albany area high school student. The whole idea came about through my frustration at the lack of minority representation in STEM, especially in the hard sciences and engineering. That emotional response inspired me to learn more about the root cause behind certain groups failing to enter tough STEM professions. I considered many things, such as a lack of role models, a lack of opportunities before college, a lack of support, etc. However, one specific research study changed my way of thinking completely. This study discussed how incorrect portrayals of scientists to minority students made them feel detached from the possibility of pursuing a STEM career.
It made me wonder - is it how STEM careers are presented that alienates underrepresented groups? I realized that STEM professionals have traditionally been portrayed as innately intelligent, lonely, and incapable of living a life beyond work. After gaining information from a broad group of stakeholders such as young kids and people currently working STEM, I discovered that STEM was being shown in school as incredibly formulaic and one-dimensional. The way that scientists described their lives was entirely different from what science-fiction movies tell their young audiences. My mission with Illuminate STEM is to help STEM professionals tell their stories and end the perception of STEM as nerdy and something only for those who are privileged.